but I had a preview of a small part yesterday. It is that time of the year again. September is marked in Adelaide by the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society Show. It is the big communal event of the rural calendar. The country descends on the city and shows them that milk really does not come from plastic bottles and that farm machinery is often huge and incredibly expensive.
There is livestock, grain and market garden produce. There are the all the ring events, including wood chopping and a grand parade and fireworks in the evenings. On the edges there are 'show bags' (high priced advertising that you can buy) and side shows.
There is also an area where there art, craft and cookery are on display. That is where I had my sneak preview yesterday. There is now a fine new pavilion for all of this. It is lovely. The lighting is excellent. There are lovely new showcases for the items on display. It is the content of some of those showcases which was my concern.
I knit. It is the one and only craft I have ever taken any interest in. If truth be told I would still rather read or write but knitting has certain challenges and a history which fascinates me. I am therefore involved in the hand knitting section of this show. This year I rewrote the judging guidelines after extensive consultation with others. I was now judging the judging.
There have been problems in recent years. The two judges are undoubtedly worthy women. They are elderly (one is in her mid 80's and the other in her late 70's) and they have been judging for many years. They have not changed but knitting has. They can recognise and acknowledge the familiar. They do not recognise new yarns or techniques or colour combinations which were unacceptable in their youth. It has been a problem and it is still a problem.
Many knitters never enter anything into the show. Some will know their work is simply not good enough. Some cannot be bothered to take the time involved. But some, too many, have simply given up because the worth of their work has never been recognised. It has never quite reached the point where it has been deemed worthy of a prize or it is not something the judges can recognise.
The rules, rightly or wrongly, allow the use of a commercial pattern. I am familiar enough with the 'style' of certain publishers of knitting patterns to recognise which garments come from commercial patterns. The judges are too. This is what they look for. This is the familiar. It is not threatening. They do not have to consider style. It has been done for them. I look at a magnificent intarsia style shawl with the hundreds of yarn ends equisitely neatly finished off. The knitter, someone I know, designed it herself. It takes second place to a commercial pattern in one colour which, although nicely knitted, does not require nearly as much as skill. I look at a lace scarf. It has edges which wobble slightly but it has won a first over a scarf embellished with leaves and flowers. A green woollen hat in an unusual shape with hand knitted nasturtiums loses out to a beanie with cables and a bobble on top. The latter is nicely knitted but the former (which does not even win a prize) is as equally well knitted and better finished. It also shows imagination.
The Convenor and I pull things out of the display cabinets. We turn garments inside out. We make notes and then return the garments to their places. We hunt for the pair of mittens that have gone missing and do not find them. Thankfully they are not my responsibility but I feel concerned for the knitter who made them.
I come away from the whole exercise feeling that this is all a little bit like life. If you are a different colour or shape or size, if your cables go in a different direction or your yarn is a new variety others are going to have problems recognising you. You get recognised for fitting inside the mould.